Do You Like the Sound of Your (Teacher) Voice?
In August 2011, shortly after I had written my first blog, I was asked to do a radio interview on teacher voice. Rae Pica of the BAM! Network, an online radio station devoted to education, contacted me saying she loved my post and thought I could offer listeners a valuable perspective on teachers speaking up in their schools.
I thought, I've written one good blog—does that make me an expert on teacher voice? Pica was persistent with her praise, so I slowly agreed. Then she told me that I would be one of four commentators, including author and education activist Karen Horwitz and two other bloggers—one being Anthony Cody, a fellow Ed Week commentator and an outspoken critic of some of the reform views I hold dear.
I admit I was a bit intimidated. I spent most of my life trying to avoid conflict. I didn't believe in throwing punches, and I'd much rather run than defend myself. This interview thing could turn ugly.
But I had committed to doing the interview, and my word was my bond.
So I did it. Turns out, Cody was a total gentleman, and the Horwitz and I were able to respectfully disagree. I spoke from my heart during the radio show and was true to my convictions. When the interview ended, I realized that I had wasted a week of my summer vacation fearing the worse.
Still, it took me a whole year to find the courage to listen to the radio interview entitled, "Teachers Beat Down: 3 Ways to Fight Back Without Losing Your Job." Why? Because unless I'm singing, I tend to hate the sound of my own voice. When I finally listened to the interview, however, I sounded great (if I do say so myself!) In fact, this July, I conducted second radio interview on teacher time management called "How To Teach and Have a Life, Too." I played the program back as soon as it went live. I actually impressed myself!
Maybe it's a woman thing. Financial guru Suze Orman said that many women can't even look a stranger in the eye and say their own full name without flinching. It may sound silly, but one of the first steps in Orman's training is to make women face each other and introduce themselves by saying their full names in complete confidence. I found that exercise to be extremely powerful.
My husband's a strong, protective man and he has taught me be to a much more assertive person in our 12 years of marriage. I used to get angry with him because when I would try to cry on his shoulder after being misunderstood or mistreated, instead of cuddling me he berated me for not standing up for myself. I used to think he was being insensitive, but, over time I began to understand his point: He was investing in my voice, not in my insecurities and fear.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is teacher voice is less about the teacher, and more about the person behind the teacher. I am a peacemaker by design, but I have learned that peace doesn't come by staying silent or turning a blind eye to avoid a conflict. Peace comes when you know what you believe, when you can calmly look a challenge in the eye and say your full name with confidence. These simple acts can diffuse your opponent's weapons, silence the noise around you, and let your true voice be heard.